DO YOU SEE others getting ahead and feel like you're just standing still?
If so, don't blame management or your parents and teachers. The truth is that the person responsible for the direction of your career is you.
While there are many things you can do to get noticed at work, one sure way is to keep informed. That means reading, going to seminars and pursuing graduate studies.
As Peter F. Drucker wrote in “Post-Capitalist Society, “Already an estimated two-thirds of U.S. employees work in the services sector; and ‘knowledge’ is becoming our most important ‘product.’”
You also have to make an effort to know yourself.
Here are some tips for intelligent career planning.
Continuing education often is a highly motivating perk for employees, and almost always pays dividends to companies. But you have to work at it and make intelligent choices.
Jennifer is a database marketing manager for a small but successful B-to-B catalog company. She enjoys attending advanced-track seminars sponsored by industry trade groups. But with the downturn in business last year, her company decided to eliminate what it considered unnecessary expenses, and those cuts included DM seminars.
Instead of taking the initiative to attend these on her own, Jennifer did nothing — and the results were disastrous. Earlier this year, she applied for a job at another catalog company, but she didn't make it past the initial interview because the company required familiarity with certain skills she could have acquired had she attended those seminars.
- Work and career goals require periodic assessment. Take time to reflect on how your current job fits into your life plan. It's very likely that your life and your motivations have changed since you began your current job.
Tom put himself through college by selling men's shoes and fashion accessories. On the advice of a marketing professor, he decided on a career in direct marketing. Upon graduation, he joined a large New York DR agency. He thrived on the adrenaline rush of agency life.
Over a span of eight years, Tom worked his way up the ladder to management supervisor. But his personal life was changing. He got married, started a family, and before long he added a commute from his home in the suburbs.
His career was an unqualified success, but something had changed. Tom was growing increasingly weary. He spent most of his time in the office or on the train. He felt disconnected from his family and stagnated in his career.
For the first time ever, Tom felt he was in a career crisis — his life goals and his job weren't in sync. So Tom took a personal inventory and determined that although he once liked the excitement, his two greatest motivations now were money and time.
So he did some brushing up on his pre-graduation skills in sales and pursued a sales position in a new area for him — direct marketing services. Now, a year out of the agency world, Tom is applying his DM knowledge in a career that offers unlimited earning potential and flexible work hours.
- Do you actively seek to read news about the company you're a part of? It pays to keep abreast of your company's business practices, economic climate and the effect of any mergers and acquisitions. You may read something about your organization that has not been shared with employees. And if the information you turn up doesn't sound positive, it's time to take some action and not just wait and see what's going to happen.
Meg's company, a successful e-mail services provider named best of breed for 2000, was sold that year for $150 million. When the sale was announced, management cheerfully proclaimed that the firm's best days were ahead and that everyone there would benefit from the transaction.
Flash forward 12 months: One morning, Meg turned on her PC and was stunned to read the lead story on her favorite Web newspaper announcing that her company had burned through 70% more cash that quarter than forecast, had lost its biggest client and now would have to lay off half the staff.
Later that day, Meg's supervisor took her aside to tell her that her job was safe but that those who remained would have to take a pay cut. Meg wasn't happy, but feared there was little she could do. At least she had a job. And besides, she wanted to be loyal, so she agreed to the conditions. Four months later, she got word that the corporation had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The last paycheck she received was returned to her for “insufficient funds” — it had bounced!
What happened? Meg saw the writing on the wall, but took no action to protect herself. She left her fate in the hands of her supervisor, and ended up an unemployed victim.
Where else can you find career-enhancing information? There are countless direct marketing publications and Web sites that will provide the latest information on industry trends. No time to read? No excuse! Schedule time each week for catching up on your reading.
In “Information Anxiety,” Richard Saul Wurman tells us that a weekday edition of The New York Times contains more information than the average person was likely to come across during a lifetime in 17th-century England.
Education is not some luxury for those who are well off. And it no longer is just for the young. We must make a lifelong commitment to keep on top of the information explosion. The choice to do that is ours.
Any learning investment you make in Me Inc. is that truly rare sure thing — an increase in stock value for you.
VICTORIA JAMES is president of Victoria James Executive Search Inc., Stamford, CT, a management search firm focused on the direct marketing business.
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